Things That Matter

Trump Administration Calls For Asylum Seekers To Pay Processing Fees For Paperwork That Have Never Had Fees

President Trump and his administration have introduced a new set of regulations that will surely discourage some asylum seekers from coming to the United States. The new regulations include charging a fee for asylum applications and delaying the approval of work permits. The proposal comes as the Trump administration continues to slow down the surge of Central American migrants trying to cross into the U.S. The changes will surely make it more difficult for asylum seekers to apply and stay in the U.S. as they wait for their case to be heard.

The reality of the situation is many asylum seekers won’t be able to afford these new proposed application fees.

President Trump is giving Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan 90 days come up with new regulations to speed up the processing of asylum claims. This will include directing officials to begin charging a fee to process asylum and employment authorization applications, which currently do not require payment.

While there are still questions about the amount that applicants might have to pay, it’s unclear how many families, who are fleeing poverty, would be able to afford these fees. While the report says the price would not exceed the cost of processing applications, officials did not provide an estimate for that amount.

For comparison, the application fee for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is $495, the fee for green card holders to file for U.S. citizenship is $725, and the fee to apply for a green card can go as high as $1,225, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Among other regulations, the Trump administration is also making it harder to get work permits for some asylum seekers.

Under current federal laws, an asylum seeker can apply for a work permit five months (150 days) after submitting their asylum application. The Trump administration wants to change that regulation.

Under the new proposal, asylum seekers can be denied work permits if they entered or tried to enter the country illegally. They are also calling on officials to immediately revoke work authorizations when people are denied asylum and deported from the country. If an individual receives a work permit, a new fee will also be included.

The Trump administration though process behind the regulation is that work permits are encouraging asylum seekers to come to the U.S. While some may argue that’s probably true, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not also fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries.

There are also proposed changes to “improve the integrity” of credible fear determinations.

The new report also calls on Homeland Security to “improve the integrity” of credible fear determinations. When migrants first come to the U.S. border and apply for asylum, the first step is often the credible-fear interview. There, they must prove to an asylum officer that they have a credible fear of returning home or face persecution. If they then succeed, migrants can then apply to various types of relief that are available.

President Trump has often ridiculed the asylum system because of this factor, at times calling it a “loophole” that attracts immigrants to the U.S.

The memo is the Trump administration’s latest effort to make it more difficult for migrants to come and stay in the country. This all comes amid a huge spike in border crossings, including a large number of families seeking asylum. According to DHS statistics, in fiscal year 2018, 92,959 asylum claims were made at the southern border, up from 55,584 in the 2017 fiscal year.

Many immigrant advocates are coming down on the new proposed regulations that will only make it harder to those seeking asylum.

The new proposed regulations are designed with fair intentions to deter the flow of incoming migrants. The Trump administration is financially attacking a group of vulnerable people, knowing full well the majority won’t be able to afford a fee.

It’s fair to assume there will be a lawsuit over these proposals and any new immigration policy put forward. Which means these new fees won’t be put in anytime soon. But immigration advocates are angry at these proposed measures and the consequence they will have on those seeking help.

“The idea that we will charge asylum seekers a fee to seek refuge from persecution, torture, or death is offensive and counter to our values,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted.

Leonardo Arzuaga, 28, of Cuba, arrived in Mexico last month. He is one of many asylum seekers that would be affected by the new proposal as he is fleeing political persecution. Arzuaga is currently waiting until he can cross the U.S. border and claim asylum.

“I think it’s a bit unjust,” Arzuaga told the AP of the recent proposals. “Because many people do not have the means to arrive, work, produce. For me it’s something that isn’t logical. Because one practically gets here with nothing.”

READ: Government Officials Report That Reuniting Separated Families Will Take Two Years

Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers

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Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

COVID-19 is spiking across the U.S. with 32 states watching as new cases of the virus continue to climb day after day. California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida are among states that have set daily new infection records. With this backdrop, a federal judge has ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must release children, with their parents, by July 17.

A judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release children in detention by a certain date.

U.S. Judge Dolly Gee ordered ICE to act quickly in response to the rampant COVID-19 spread in detention centers to protect the health of migrants. Judge Gee is giving ICE until July 17 to comply and release all children that have been in the agency’s custody.

U.S. Judge Gee ruled that the threat of the pandemic is great where the children are being held.

“Given the severity of the outbreak in the counties in which FRCs are located and the Independent Monitor and Dr. Wise’s observations of non-compliance or spotty compliance with masking and social distancing rules, renewed and more vigorous efforts must be undertaken to transfer (children) residing at the FRCs to non-congregate settings,” Judge Gee wrote in her order.

Concerned politicians and public figures are celebrating the judge’s order.

The order is aimed specifically at the Family Residential Centers (FRCs) and Office of Refugee Resettlement camps across the country. The virus has been running rampant in detention centers and prisons and, according to the judge, unsurprisingly the virus has made it to the FRCs.

She continued: “The FRCs are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures.”

National leaders are calling on ICE to follow the ruling by a federal judge.

The judge’s order is aimed at the three FRCs in the U.S. Two are in Texas and one is in Pennsylvania. Unaccompanied minors in various shelters are also included in the order.

“Although progress has been made, the Court is not surprised that [COVID-19] has arrived at both the [Family Residential Centers] and [Office of Refugee Resettlement] facilities, as health professionals have warned all along,” Judge Gee wrote.

This story is developing and we will update as new information arises.

READ: After COVID-19 Shut Down Flights, A Man Sailed Across The Atlantic Ocean All So That He Could See His Dad

Here’s Everything You Should Know About Trump’s Plan To Further Limit Asylum For Migrants And Refugees

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Here’s Everything You Should Know About Trump’s Plan To Further Limit Asylum For Migrants And Refugees

Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

In what many are calling the most sweeping changes to asylum law ever, the Trump administration has proposed new rules regarding how migrants and refugees qualify for asylum protection in the U.S.

The rules would have a major impact on the ability of people with a legitimate fear for their safety – or that of their family – to prove their case before U.S. asylum courts. In some cases, asylum seekers may not even be given a chance to pleas their cases before an immigration court as the rules could leave some decisions in the hands of front line screeners, such as Border Patrol agents.

Trump administration unveils sweeping plan to limit asylum claims.

The Trump administration has released its furthest-reaching plant yet when it comes to trying to change asylum law in the U.S. The administration is trying to change the meaning of “persecution” to make it harder for migrants and refugees, with legitimate fears of persecution and danger, to be able to secure asylum in the U.S.

The 161-page proposal, officially posted Monday in the Federal Register, would also streamline the asylum-approval process, letting immigration judges rather than immigration courts make rulings in asylum cases and redefining the definition of a frivolous application.

“Essentially, this rule tries, in a way that hasn’t been done before, to define what can be grounds for asylum,” said Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

The rule change could potentially bar relief to anyone who has passed through two countries before reaching the U.S. or who spent 14 days or more in one other country prior to arriving here. The administration also wants to bar asylum to anyone who has failed to timely pay U.S. taxes or who has been unlawfully present in the U.S. for a year or more.

It wants immigration judges to weigh someone’s illegal presence in the U.S. against them even though federal law specifically says people can seek asylum by crossing any part of the border and asking for it. And in addition to making fewer people eligible for asylum, it would give officers more power to deny initial asylum claims preemptively, with no need of a court hearing.

Critics of measure say the proposed changes would ‘represent the end of the asylum system as we know it.’

Credit: Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

The new rules were quickly condemned to advocates like Families Belong Together, which called the proposed rule change “an assault on the fundamental right to seek asylum.”

“If fully implemented, they will gut years of progress in the U.S. to create bridges to safety for so many whose governments could not and would not protect them from severe harm and even death,” said a statement from Tahirih, which advocates for immigrants escaping gender-based violence.

The rule change would also put some of the most vulnerable people at increased risk of persecution.

Credit: Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

For several years, the Trump administration has been working hard to keep asylum seekers from even reaching the U.S. border. As part of the government’s plan, the administration has signed ‘safe third country’ agreements with several Central American country’s – but several of these deals have shown to leave asylum seekers in increased danger.

In its deal with Guatemala, hundreds of non-Guatemalans have been sent to the country to apply for asylum there – predominantly women with young children, who may have well-founded fears of persecution. And the system has become so convoluted that many migrants and refugees were effectively compelled to abandon their asylum claims and return to the places they had fled in fear.

Meanwhile, at the U.S.-Mexico border, asylum seekers have been denied the most basic procedural safeguards, including the opportunity to present evidence or acquire a lawyer. Many had endured demeaning and coercive treatment by Border Patrol.

One Salvadoran woman told KITV that she was coerced into signing her “voluntary deportation” form at 2 a.m., believing it to be an asylum application. Soon afterward, officials chained her around her waist, ankles and wrists and sent her to Guatemala. “To them we are like bugs,” she said.

The new rules on asylum come just as the U.S. Supreme Court has said that Trump acted illegally in trying to end DACA.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the Department of Homeland Security – and the Trump administration – had violated a federal administrative law with its policy ending DACA. DACA is the Obama-era program allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to live and work legally in the US.

The decision came as a bit of a surprise as many expected the court’s conservative majority to strike down the program in favor of Trump. However, the ruling effectively leaves the program in place until Congress a can take up the legislative process behind immigration and get something done for the benefit of DACA recipients and the nation.